An excerpt from the Digital BT Journal Special Edition 2
B News – Bearing Alaska
It had been a few years since the last time we’d been in the presence of grizzly in Alaska. These giants of the wilderness are a unique critter that dominate their world. And I still think of them as big ‘ol teddy bears. You’d think with spending over a decade with them, over ninety thousand images of them in my files, and no market for those photos, my love affair with grizzlies might be waning. What is it they say? “Separation makes the heart grow fonder.” That doesn’t even come close to describe our obsession and desire with these amazing critters. They fill a very irreplaceable role in our wild heritage.
For me it all started back in the ‘80s when I was knee deep in research in California’s wild heritage. In the 1800s, California had a number of subspecies of Grizzly Bears roaming its vast open space. By 1924, all were gone and the void on the landscape is hard to imagine today. But I wanted badly to imagine that landscape complete with the griz. First, I went to Yellowstone in search of filling in that piece of the puzzle. But it didn’t come close to what I had read in the accounts of Grizzly in California. Then in Sept, ’99, I made my first trip to Alaska expressly to spend time with griz.
I will never forget that first experience as it started my quest. We boated down to Clearwater Creek and had put to shore at its mouth (it empties into Cook Inlet). Over my shoulder was my camera gear and in my hand, a fly rod. We ventured up the creek not to far but had gone over the sand shoulder so we could no longer see the creek mouth or the boat. We were on this little island in the middle of the creek where we started to fish. Set up right next to me was my gear on the tripod. Within little time, we had caught and released a number of Silver Salmon. After a little while, my guide tapped me on the shoulder and pointed up the creek a few hundred yards. There in the middle of the creek was a big griz working it, looking for salmon.
We watched it for a while. It then suddenly turned, seemingly looking right at us as it started to run right in our direction. Man, can griz move! It kept running towards us, closing the distance between us in what seemed like seconds. It was bolting down the creek shore, making the big turn, bringing it right into our lap. My friend told me to just stand still and so instantly I was behind my camera and had it trained on the black mass of fur racing towards us. We didn’t move and after not a whole lot of images, the bear was too close for me to focus so I took my eye away from the viewfinder and watched. I looked up to see this massive bruin race by us not more than five feet away and keep heading down the creek. Wow!
Grizzly Bears are like no other critter! My fascination with the Grizzly Bear may have started back in the ‘80s but it has grown everyday since. That’s why we keep going back! The Grizzly Bear teaches us something new every encounter, be it photographic or personal, lessons that are worth the adventure to discover.
This past summer we ventured back to Alaska to a location that promised us a Grizzly Bear experience that rivaled our time at McNeil. When venturing to a location with that kind of allure, expectations are high and the possibility of failure, astronomical. After all, we are talking about wildlife photography, which guarantees nothing, no matter the effort we put forth. What follows is how our time with grizzlies unfolded and what you need to know to make the same adventure part of your future.
Prep is Always Part of the Equation
Plan your trip today!
A preview from the Vol. 17.1, BT Journal
B News – Romancing the Oregon Coast
Coming this Spring!